News, Policy & Media

10Dec

Test and Trace CMA defends rapid testing schemes

A senior NHS advisor has defended the use of rapid COVID-19 tests in the deployment of mass testing schemes. This comes as some tests have been criticised for their accuracy levels in detecting the virus. Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said the lateral flow tests could identify many cases of infection in people without symptoms. A study found the tests missed 50% of cases and some scientists fear people could start to ignore health advice. She acknowledged that some “false negatives” had been spotted in the roll-out of the tests, but called the mass testing policy move a “game changer” on the whole.

A British Medical Journal article had flagged concerns over the accuracy of the effects of rapid testing in Liverpool where the tests were reported to have missed half of all cases. Dr Hopkins told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the tests had "limitations" but that they were helping diagnose asymptomatic cases that would otherwise have gone undetected. Some councils had raised these concerns also. Greater Manchester’s city council moved to pause their rapid testing of care home visitors.

Mass testing is being introduced in England’s tier-three “higher-risk” areas and it is starting in one of the areas hardest hit by the virus in Wales. Care homes will also be the recipients of these tests in the coming period, with more than a million due to be delivered. People’s behaviours should not change in terms of COVID-19 protection, Dr Hopkins repeated. "We are also very clear that until we get a much lower prevalence of disease in this country that we shouldn't be changing our behaviours," she said.

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